Steve Wozniak reminisces about the origins of the personal computer and the nature of innovation.
Steve “Woz” Wozniak, the legendary Apple computer co-founder and author, was an apt keynote attraction for the opening today of Discovery 2010, Canada largest innovation and commercialization trade show. Hosted by the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), the conference attracted more than 300 start-ups, university research spin-offs, manufacturing and design service companies and like-minded entrepreneurs for its opening day and approximately 2,000 attendees to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
After rolling up to the stage on his Segway, Wozniak was interviewed by Steve Paikin, host of TVO’s The Agenda in front of a packed house. In his responses, the Apple co-founder touched on everything from his first experiences tinkering with computers at the age of 10 to his latest employer Fusion-io, a maker of RAM-based mass-storage technology.
In keeping with the theme of the show, Paikin began the interview by asking what the most critical quality one has to have to be an innovator.
“I have to say it is the skill to assemble things,” Wozniak said. “You can have a goal or something that you want to do, but you got to be able to take the parts and tools around you to assemble those things into something that hasn’t existed before.”
Wozniak went on to describe the early days of Apple Computer, when the company consisted simply of Steve Jobs and himself designing and assembling components in the Jobs’ San Jose, Calif. garage. At the time, the pair failed to convince venture capitalists of their vision, but it was Jobs’ unfailing confidence in the product, he said, that eventually won over investors. Still, it was Wozniak’s passion for electronics at an early age that eventually led to the first personal computer.
“I was a nerd,” Wozniak admitted. “At maybe a 11 years old, I became socially an outsider. They don’t talk to you if you’re into things like electronics and things they don’t understand. So I was on the outside but that makes you independent and good things come from that. You talk about ‘Think Different.’”
Wozniak said he fell in love with computers at age 10 and taught himself how to design them even though he couldn’t afford to actually buy the components. Eventually, though local computer clubs, the potential and implications of the personal computer eventually became clear.